Category Archives: Lean Six Sigma

Getting Back to Basics in Quality Improvement

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Essential for survival, a strategy of getting your organization back to basics can make the difference in obtaining significant bottom line results.

How do you build quality in your company?

By applying 5 basic principles, your company can experience significant improvements in a short period of time.  At Quality Manufacturing Associates, we train and consult on continuous quality improvements methods. Our clients have seen rapid improvements even before their initiative is fully implemented.

To help you take the first step, we would like to give you our abridged version of the presentation we have given to hundreds of clients – “5 Keys to Building Quality.”  It outlines the principles that are essential to build Quality in any organization.  Find out what other clients have said.  Contact us to help you accomplish important quality initiatives.

Your competition is improving their systems on a daily basis; so don’t wait, before it’s too late.

Request your free copy now5 Keys to Building Quality.

Zippy is Back!

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In case you missed us last time – check out our introductory video of the Zippy Car Workshop!

Public Workshop 

This dynamic four hour workshop enables participants to learn the basic principles of Lean Manufacturing in a no-risk environment. Principles are taught in the classroom and then practiced in a hands-on factory simulation.

In three successive factory simulation rounds the participants convert a traditional factory to a Lean factory environment. Facilitators track the quality and financial metrics from round to round to show the benefits to be derived from a Lean Transformation.

The Lean principles are explained so that its benefits can also be applied to office, service and other non-manufacturing environments.

For a more detailed description you can visit our events page  or watch the brief introductory video.

In-House Workshop

Zippy is available for in-house delivery at your site. For a quote, email Enrique Bekerman, emb109@aol.com.

Learning Lean by Live Simulations

Why bother with the extra expense of a Lean live factory or office simulation?

Live factory simulations have been used  for the last several decades to demonstrate the Lean concepts.  Electronics, clocks, cars, toys, boats, airplanes, electrical connectors,  pens, flashlights have all been popular.  Office simulations to eliminate waste in paperwork/information have also been used. Materials used range from actual products (pens, switches) to more whimsical demonstrations  (Lego assemblies, wooden toys, paper airplanes).

The idea behind all these simulations is to combine classroom learning, through lectures or Power Point presentations, with an actual demonstration of the Lean concepts.  Typically, the workshops are broken into several sections or rounds to represent shifts or days at an assembly operation.

The first round starts  by intentionally demonstrating some of the wastes commonly found in a traditional manufacturing environment.  These inefficiencies are used as talking points for the classroom session.  During the classroom sessions the Lean principles are gradually introduced and practiced during a simulation round.  Quality rejects, amount of product shipped, on-time delivery, and profit/loss are tracked and reviewed after each round.  Subsequent rounds gradually introduce the Lean tools and concepts until the final round representing a Lean Enterprise.

The benefits of Lean including customer satisfaction, waste elimination are demonstrated physically and financially in a way that can be easily understood and applied.  A good facilitator will encourage the students to make the connection between the simulation exercise and their workplace environment.  The workshops are typically presented in skit form to add some levity to the experience.

Because a Lean transformation involves a cultural change, it is essential that everyone in the organization participate in the simulations.  Teamwork and the need for Continuous Improvement are emphasized in the classroom and simulation exercise.

I have participated and facilitated many of these workshops.  I have also, at the client’s request limited the introduction to to Lean to a one or two hour classroom presentation.  In my experience, the latter do not generate the same level of  learning or enthusiasm as in the simulation workshops.  The hands-on experience obtained in the simulation, the facilitator’s ability to relate the simulation to the “real world” experience and the round-to-round factual comparison of the benefits of Lean, in my opinion,  make  simulations a superior method of  preparing an organization for a successful Lean transformation.

Have you had experience in a Lean simulation?  Do you think it is worth the extra time and investment?

It should be noted that workshops typically take a full day. QMA as developed the Zippy Toy Car simulation, a dynamic 4 hour workshop that  in 3 rounds covers the  most important concepts covered in the longer workshops. It is far less disruptive and cost effective. It is designed for in-house delivery, but a Public Workshop is offered periodically.

Enrique Bekerman

 

 

How to Start a Real World Lean Transformation by Live Simulation

 

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Visions of reducing inefficiencies for real-world Lean transformation in manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain operations are only the tip of the iceberg.   Imagine what a live workplace simulation workshop can do for your organization.

A couple of questions are often asked: “Why does anyone need Lean?” and “Would the time and expense of a live simulation workshop be justified?”

Let me answer this first question. If you’re not familiar, Lean is a continuous improvement initiative focused on providing customer value and eliminating waste from processes. The end result is a streamlined operation  able to deliver higher quality products on-time while using fewer resources.  For an explanation of Lean basics you may refer to an earlier blog article .

A live factory simulation workshop is a hands-on technique used for more than twenty years to demonstrate basic Lean concepts. The simulation mode brings in a fictitious operation to serve as a learning tool.  Simulation exercises are conducted to demonstrate different types of waste, and their elimination, as well as relate the techniques learned to “real world” scenarios.

The format of a simulation workshop is divided into several sections or rounds to represent each of the shifts (or days) of the fictitious production facility. Participants are part of the process – through every wheel, screw, and nut assembly. Much like a sports game that excites and draws everyone together to win, Lean simulation workshops have this same effect.

First round starts by intentionally demonstrating the chaos and waste commonly found in a traditional manufacturing environment. Lean principles are gradually introduced and practiced during the subsequent simulation rounds. Discussions open up to talk about what works well and what waste may be eliminated from the process.

Quality rejects, inventories, product quantities shipped, on-time delivery, and profit/loss are tracked and reviewed after each round, so that the effect of waste elimination is clearly identified and quantified.  The simulation continues to introduce the Lean tools and concepts during each round until the final round represents a Lean Enterprise.

At this point, the total benefit of the Transformation can be assessed.  In addition to improved customer satisfaction resulting from product quality and on-time delivery, other physical and financial benefits are demonstrated.  A Lean transformation involves cultural change, and therefore, essentially everyone in the organization should be part of the simulation exercises. Teamwork and the desire for continuous improvement are emphasized throughout the workshop.

Simulation materials may range from actual products like pens and switches to more whimsical demonstrations using Lego assemblies, wooden toys, and paper airplanes. The goal is still the same: eliminating waste. In fact, office simulations have, in a similar way, focused on the elimination of  paperwork and information capture not integral to business objectives.

One of the most difficult choices people have to make is to commit to starting this journey to implement Lean practices. Often the sentiment is that a simulation takes too much time.  In particular, one business owner recently told me “we don’t have the time to stop production to do that kind of training.”

Is there ever ‘the right time’? Most business people would suggest, now, more than ever, is the right time. To prove this point, a Lean transformation would realistically open up opportunities for business, improve the bottom line, and conserve time and expense. That is exactly what happens in a successful Lean transformation. The simulation workshop has become a necessary first step for a successful implementation.

The QMA network of quality experts offers workshops and facilitation to guide organizations on their Lean journey. We don’t claim to be visionaries or missionaries, just that we’re able to demonstrate the most cost effective ways to build more value into the business.

In our experience facilitating Lean transformations, a live simulation provides a higher level of understanding and fully engages employees in accomplishing these business goals through a successful Lean transformation.

The hands-on experience, combined with our in-depth Lean expertise and guidance, enables participants to relate their own “real-world” experience. And the round-to-round factual comparison of Lean practices and benefits, in my opinion, make simulations a superior method of preparing an organization for a successful Lean transformation.

One further note: Workshops of this kind would typically take a full day.

QMA has developed the “Zippy Toy Car” Simulation (another way to say we get it done quickly), a dynamic four-hour workshop of  three rounds that covers the most important concepts as compared to longer workshops.

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The Lean concepts you learn can be literally taken back to your workplace and practiced the same day. The shorter and dynamic format maintains a high level of energy while reducing the investment of time.

Our popular Lean Office simulation workshop takes place at the “Department of Approvals”, a simulated service organization workshop, participants progressively implement Lean tools to experience a transition from a traditional office setting to an efficient Lean service environment. Participants continuously track progress of improvements by collecting data in a report card and monitoring performance measures through each simulation. The workshop leads management and workforce teams through the application and use of Lean tools in making immediate process improvements.

Our training is designed for in-house delivery, but is periodically offered as a public workshop.  Our next workshop,co-sponsored by ASQ South Florida, is scheduled for April 20, 2012.  See our Events page for more details.

Have you experienced a Lean simulation?  Do you think it is worth the four hour investment and expense?

 

Developing a Listening Culture

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In a previous post Leadership and a Trusting Culture   I talked about the importance of developing trust as a critical component of  managing change in any organization.

To build trust, leaders must first develop listening skills.

Team members must know that their ideas will be heard and given proper consideration. The synergies to be derived from team participation will never be realized if team members don’t trust that their leadership will listen and have a capacity to understand them.

Well intentioned leaders often “kill” ideas without even realizing that they are doing it. A large number of phrases have crept into our daily speech that result in immediate freezing of the desire to openly share ideas.  “We have tried that before”, ” that will never work”  are some examples of  idea killing phrases that will halt any creative cooperation. Being careful  to refrain from providing “knee jerk” negative feedback is an important skill to be acquired by all leaders.

It is a well established method in all types of brainstorming exercises to withhold criticism while ideas are being gathered.  The absence of criticism provides an atmosphere where creativity is uninhibited.  Once all ideas are vented, the leader and the team may engage in the critical evaluation of the benefits, costs, and general practicality of each solution to the problem at hand.

The “wild and crazy” ideas that appear impractical at first, often become the real problem solvers.  If  team members are free to think and express themselves they can often put a different “spin” on an impractical idea that overcomes the initial objections.  One idea may be the initial spark of creativity that can be used as a “springboard” by other team members.

When a leader criticizes prematurely, or places too many limits on the types of ideas that are welcomed, the results are predictably unproductive.  In a recent Dilbert comic strip, Scott Adams makes this point.

Tom Feltenstein  offers a hilarious and powerful video, titled “99 Idea Killers.”

Paul Williams advises teams to “pause before you pounce” on an idea.  He has developed  “Idea Killer Bingo Card” to help teams recognize their own use of reactive negative feedback.

I heard one of  QMA clients express disappointment with the results of their “suggestion box” recommendations.  In facilitating some of their team efforts it became evident to us that leaders, at all levels, were quick to criticize the ideas of others and find reasons why the solutions wouldn’t work.  They often assumed they knew the answers to the problems.

After privately confronting them with their negative attitudes towards the ideas of others, they made genuine efforts to improve the way they interacted with team members.  It turned out that many of their inefficiencies were easily eliminated once team members trusted their leaders to listen to them and became fully engaged in the organization’s continual improvement efforts.

What is the worst idea killing criticism you’ve witnessed?  Do you have a special technique to deal with negativity of  “idea killers”?  Please share your comments below.

Developing Customer Focus in a Lean ISO System

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In Lean applications, it is very important to assess “value” from the customer’s vantage point. Activities that don’t add value to the product or service are by definition “waste.”

Delivering what the customer wants when he wants it is the primary thrust of Lean.  The vehicle for accomplishing this is the elimination of waste from processes.  ISO 9001:2008 emphasizes meeting customer requirements and continually improving the Quality System.

Quality objectives in the ISO Quality Management System can be derived by focusing on the customer needs and requirements and by using Lean tools in helping with the attainment of these objectives.

To maintain customer focus, you must:

  1. Research and understand your customer’s requirements–needs and expectations.
  2. Ensure that your company’s objectives are linked to these requirements.
  3. Communicate the importance of meeting these requirements to your employees.
  4. Track your performance against the Quality objectives.
  5. Use Lean and statistical tools to improve performance, eliminate waste, and reduce variation.
  6. Measure and track customer satisfaction; act on the results–complaints, as well as, compliments.
  7. Manage the details of customer relationships in a systematic manner.

Continued customer satisfaction results in improved customer loyalty leading to repeat business.  Obtaining customer loyalty should be one of your most important goals.

A Lean ISO system is one of the best means of achieving long-term customer loyalty by focusing on the customer requirements and making the customer the driving force of your organization.